A “State of the Alfalfa” Address

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: July 31, 2018)

(Image Source: Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower)

Sometimes it’s good to stop looking at the vegetation in the road ditch and adjoining fields and direct your eyes toward the larger landscape. That’s what I intend to do here with the focus being on alfalfa.

In essence, this will be something of a “State of the Alfalfa” dissertation with few specific recommendations, but some important concepts to understand if you grow and harvest alfalfa, or serve those who do.

Some things never change Continue reading

Understanding Fall Lambing

Dr. Christopher Schauer, Director and Animal Scientist, NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center
Dr. Reid Redden, Extension Sheep and Goat Specialist, Texas A&M
(Previously published online with Extension)

(Image Source: North Dakota State University)

Fall lambing is a technique that can be utilized to capture additional productivity from many of today’s sheep breeds. Fall lambing has many positive attributes, including but not limited to, increased utilization of facilities and other resources, accelerated returns on animal investments, provide year-round supply of lamb, and provide options to lambing outside winter and spring months. The two negatives of fall lambing are lower conception rates and fewer lambs born per ewe lambing.

Most sheep will stop cycling when days start getting longer (Jan/Feb) and return to cyclicity when days start getting shorter (Aug/Sept). However, some breeds with naturally long breeding seasons (6-8 months), such as Dorset, Polypay, Rambouillet, Targhee, Katahdin, and Finnsheep, start cycling sooner and adapt to fall lambing with more success than short length breeding seasons (4 months) breeds. Selecting replacements from dams that have proven records of fall lambing will Continue reading

Using Hay to Meet Sheep Nutritional Needs

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Wayne County
(Previously published in: A Guide to Katahdin Hair Sheep)

Sheep are ruminants, so outside of a feedlot situation the majority, if not all, of their nutrient requirements should be met from forages. For most sheep owners, this means that hay is an important component of the ration through at least the winter months and possibly even longer, including times of pasture shortages due to drought or poor forage stands. There are two critical questions to answer when using hay to meet sheep nutritional needs:

  • What is the nutrient content and quality of the hay?
  • What are the nutrient requirements of the sheep?

The number one factor affecting the quality and nutrient content of hay is Continue reading

Ram Health: Pizzle Rot

Dr. John Martin, Veterinary Scientist, Sheep, Goat and Swine/OMAFRA
(Previously published on Ontario, Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs)

(Image Source: Renn-vue Farms)

Pizzle Rot in Sheep

To deal with the cause first. Like many conditions we see in sheep, pizzle rot is the result of an interaction between a bacteria and some other factor. The bacteria is Corynebacterium renale or one of that group. These bacteria have the ability to break urea down using an enzyme, urease. The other factor is an increase in the protein level of the diet, quite common in the month before breeding to improve the condition of the rams. Once the protein in the diet from all sources rises above 16%, urine can contain more than 4% urea. This excess urea makes the urine alkaline. The bacterial urease breaks down the urea to release excess ammonia. It is this ammonia that causes a severe irritation and ulceration of the skin around the preputial opening. Once the skin is ulcerated, C. renale or other bacteria will infect it. The debris Continue reading

Early vs. Late Lambing – Which Option are You Considering this Breeding Season?

Mike Neary, Extension Sheep Specialist, Purdue University
(Previously published on the Purdue University Extension web page)

The purpose of this article is to examine the pros and cons of each system and how they can fit individual producers goals and operations. Neglected in this discussion is fall lambing, which is not an attempt to minimize this as a viable management system. Fall lambing is viable, with the proper genetics and feed resources.

Early or Winter Lambing
Early lambing systems have some definite advantages over other systems. High on the list is labor availability. Many farmers don’t have as many demands on their time during winter as they do during spring. Fieldwork, planting, calving, etc., are all time-consuming and high input periods. There simply may not be enough time to lamb out a bunch of ewes. This is a real and practical consideration, since Continue reading

There’s No Joke about Using a Teaser Ram

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As many producers are in the midst of preparing for the upcoming breeding season, there are many tasks that need to be completed before turning the rams in. Of course, decisions need to be made regarding mating pairs and when to start flushing the ewes, but in this process have you ever considered “jump starting” the cycling of your flock in preparation for breeding. With this, I have a few questions that I have to ask many of you. Have you ever introduced a teaser ram to allow your ewes start cycling and to shorten the breeding season? If you answered no to both of these questions, I’ll ask, why not? Continue reading

P. tenuis, Meningeal Worm in Small Ruminants

Dr. Tim McDermott, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Franklin County
(Previously Published in Farm and Dairy: July 12, 2018)

When I was a veterinary student in the 1990’s in parasitology class we learned about Paralephostrongylus tenuis (P. tenuis), the meningeal worm primarily affecting small ruminants, as an uncommon, even rare occurrence in private practice.  When I joined Extension in 2015 in Hocking County, I found that for small ruminant producers in southeastern Ohio, this parasite was frequently encountered.  P. tenuis is a type of roundworm that has white tailed deer as its primary host.  In white tailed deer however, the parasite infrequently causes illness, but instead will live inside the deer for years with no outward medical signs, excepting only eggs shed from the roundworm into the environment within the deer feces.  The life cycle of this roundworm parasite is classified as indirect.  This means that further maturation of the parasite into an infective larval stage occurs in a second host outside of the deer and this intermediate host is then ingested by another species.  The intermediate host for P. tenuis is Continue reading

Mycotoxin Concerns when Feeding Small Ruminants

Michael Neary, Extension Small Ruminant Specialist, Purdue University
(Previously Published as a Sheep and Meat Goat Extension Publication)

Identifying Corn Ear Rots (Image Source: No-Till Farmer)

Introduction
During the 2009 Indiana corn harvest, livestock producers heard numerous reports of mycotoxin levels high enough to cause concern. The main mycotoxins in feed grains that sheep and meat goat producers need to be concerned with are deoxynivalenol (DON) and zearalenone (ZEN). Deoxynivalenol is also known as vomitoxin. Zearalenone arises from Gibberrella ear rot, or Gib ear rot. Both of these mycotoxins are produced by a Fusarium fungus. There is a limited amount of research and extension information available on the effect of sheep performance when consuming feeds infected with DON and ZEN. There is less information for Continue reading

Recap: 2018 Ohio Sheep Day

Brady Campbell, Program Coordinator, OSU Sheep Team

As the sun rose above the hills of southeastern Ohio this past Saturday, the stage was set for the 2018 Ohio Sheep Day. Shepherds from all around gathered in Belle Valley at Ohio State’s Eastern Agriculture Research Station (EARS) to take in its unique view and to get an update on what has been happening at EARS since the last Sheep Day in 2009. In addition, Dr. CathAnn Kress, Dean of the College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences as well as Dr. Dave Benfeld, Associate Vice President, AVP, Ag Admin and Dir. joined those in attendance to listen in on the current happenings and research being conducted at the research station. A unique piece of this years sheep day included the attendance of several OSU Animal faculty interested in the sustainability of Ohio’s sheep industry.

To begin the morning session, attendees were loaded onto the tour wagons and headed to the sheep handling facility. Here, shepherds were introduced to Continue reading

The Hidden Costs of Making Hay

Alan Newport, Beef Producer editor
(Previously published in Beef Producer: July 3, 2018)

How to hate hay.

One of the worst practices we do, from a soil-health and productivity standpoint, is haying.

Haying generally removes significantly more nutrients from the soil than do grain crops, in addition to the damage it causes to soil life and the lack of biological stimulation.

Examples from an Oklahoma State University publication generally match the data from other states. These are pounds of nutrient per ton of hay, so you can extrapolate this to a per-acre basis using your hay yields.

Note these are only mineral content. Nitrogen is Continue reading

How are You Preparing for Breeding Season?

Melanie Barkley, Livestock Extension Educator, Penn State Extension
(previously published on the Penn State Extension, Animals and Livestock page)

(Image Source: Premier 1 Supplies)

Throughout the year you make decisions to support or improve performance, but are there areas in your operation where you are overlooking some lost opportunities? Lost opportunities are those areas that could be tweaked to further improve production or performance. Let’s take a look at the breeding season to determine if there are opportunities to improve performance in that area.

A large factor that affects profitability in a sheep operation is the lamb crop. This involves anything from birth weights to growth to efficiency. Breeding season is a critical time so that we insure not only that ewes get pregnant, but that they also produce twins. We not only want high conception rates, but those conception rates need to be high during the first heat cycle.

Prior to breeding season, rams should be Continue reading

Tall Fescue Toxicosis – Knowing the Signs

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

Kentucky 31 tall fescue

Tall fescue “Kentucky-31” (KY-31) is one of the most predominant forages in the nation. Its popularity began in the 1930s when a wild strain of fescue was discovered on a Kentucky farm and it became recognized for wide adaptability. In the1940s, the cultivated variety was publically released and can now be found in most pastures in the United States. This cultivar is easy to establish, persistent, tolerant of many environmental stresses, resistant to pests, and can aid livestock managers in prolonging the grazing season. However, tall fescue does not accomplish all of these tasks unassisted.

An endophytic fungus called Neotyphodium coenophialum can be credited for many of these benefits. The fungus cannot be seen and can only be detected by laboratory analysis. The fescue endophyte forms a mutually beneficial relationship with the grass, but Continue reading

How to Battle Footrot

Dr. Bill Shulaw, OSU Extension Veterinarian

This week we dig back into our archives to find an article that many could probably related to, especially with the weather that we have been experiencing!

With an unusual wet spring and summer, this situation has opened up the door for a common sheep disease to drastically affect your flock: contagious footrot. Warm wet weather softens the hoof and soft tissues between the toes making the foot more susceptible to infection. It also favors the transmission of the causative bacteria, Dichelobacter nodosus (formerly Bacteroides nodsus), from the hooves of carrier sheep to the hooves of unaffected animals. For a review of the causes of virulent and benign footrot in sheep, as well as “scald,” the reader is referred to the appropriate section in the latest edition of the SID Sheep Production Handbook available through the American Sheep Industry.

When footrot appears in a flock, it often Continue reading

Top 7 Factors for Quality Hay

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower managing editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: June 26, 2018)

One of the many things that David Letterman gets remembered for is his Top 10 lists.

These lists included such things as the Top 10 Signs Your Kid Had a Bad First Day at School, the Top 10 Numbers Between One and 10, and the Top 10 Dog Excuses for Losing the Dog Show (No. 3 – Didn’t know that was the judge’s leg).

Lists, especially those that are ranked, are great for generating a plethora of discussion and arguments — just ask two passionate baseball fans to list the top 10 players during the past 50 years. It’s likely both will end their day in an emergency room.

Agree or not, lists do invoke thought and reflection.

With that in mind, here’s Dennis Hancock’s “Top 7 Factors that Affect Hay Forage Quality.” The University of Georgia Extension forage specialist enumerated the list during a recent Alabama Forage Focus webinar. The factors are listed in order of perceived importance. Continue reading

When Rain Wrecks Plans for Pastures

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

Mud, nutrient leaching, and erosion are a few of the ailments pastures across our region are experiencing in 2018. It can be challenging to be thankful for rain in years like this. This year you have likely witnessed the rain wash away freshly planted seed, topsoil, and nutrients while trudging through swamps that should be access roads, watching seed heads develop on valuable hay, and cutting fallen limbs off damaged fence.

Nature has taunted many this season. In Southeast Ohio, opportunities to make hay have been few and far between due to soggy soil conditions and high humidity. The longer harvest is delayed, the poorer nutritive value becomes. Most producers have probably harvested first cutting hay that will barely meet requirements for animal maintenance. Looking beyond the frustration to solutions, there are things we can do to relieve the pressure that heavy rainfall inflicts on hayfields and grazed pastures.

Mud Management
One of the best ways to manage mud in grazing situations is Continue reading